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Robert Pershing Wadlow was a man who lived in the first half of the twentieth century. He had hyperplasia of his pituitary gland, which caused him over-produce human growth hormone (HGH), and as a result, he grew to nearly 9 feet (2.75m). He had difficulty managing his body size and died at age 22, with no sign that this growth was slowing down.

HGH can be used for medicinal purposes, and it seems that doctors prescribe it for conditions like chronic underdevelopment and HGH deficiencies.

Putting aside ethical or government regulation issues, is it theoretically possible for someone (like a "fully grown" adult) to artificially grow beyond their genetic potential by providing them with regular doses of HGH? If not, what was different about Wadlow's case?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you mean grow someone from scratch ( :-) ) or just substantially increase their growth? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 11 '15 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 lol... Increase their growth (or generally prevent them from ceasing to grow). $\endgroup$ – Eric Feb 12 '15 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ You have to note that Robert died at a young age. Usually when the puberty hits and androgens are being produced at appropriate levels the growth plates of the bones would fuse and the person would cease growing. $\endgroup$ – One Face Feb 13 '15 at 1:08
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    $\begingroup$ @CRags That's true, but he was well past puberty, and bone plates usually fuse around 20 (if I'm not mistaken). It could be that if Robert had lived a few years more, he would have slowed down, but unfortunately there's nothing to suggest either way. $\endgroup$ – Eric Feb 13 '15 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ It varies but growing at 22 years is not unheard of. $\endgroup$ – One Face Feb 13 '15 at 1:15
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You asked

... is it theoretically possible for someone (like a "fully grown" adult) to artificially grow beyond their genetic potential by providing them with regular doses of HGH? 

For an adult, the answer is no. Human growth means skeletal lateral growth, which is indeed mediated by human growth hormone. But during normal human development bones ossify in the process, and in human adults the bones are completely ossified and can't grow in length anymore.

From the cancer.gov site on Bone development and growth:

When cartilage growth ceases, usually in the early twenties, the epiphyseal plate completely ossifies so that only a thin epiphyseal line remains and the bones can no longer grow in length

Further reading: NEJM Osteogenesis: The Development of Bones

This point is usually reached around the early twenties in humans. The case mentioned in your question is different because in this case, the human growth hormone was "given" before this process had finished and thus the bones grew longer. He was 22 when he died, so we will never know if he would have finished growing in his mid- to late twenties.

Giving adults (that don't suffer from an HGH deficit) more human growth hormone has been done and does not result in lateral growth, but it does result in increase in lean body mass in both young adults and the elderly

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